Geopolitics

Palestinian Liberation v. Israelization: A Moment Of Truth

In the latest Palestinian uprising, the greatest accomplishment has been to demonstrate the actuality of liberation.

-Essay-

JERUSALEMMay 14, 2018: Donald Trump keeps his promise to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and recognizes a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The Palestinian Authority's call to action results in nothing but a few performative protests and anemic marches in the streets of Ramallah. There's a small demonstration outside the new embassy building where Zionist leftists beat their drums and call for the end of the occupation.

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The Many Reasons Erdogan Plays The Palestinian Card

Even as other Muslim leaders were treading more carefully on the Palestinian question, Turkey's leader knows no better way to express his global ambitions than a frontal assault on Israel.

-Analysis-

ISTANBUL — Throughout last week, thousands of people demonstrated against Israel in Turkey. In a country where protests are often brutally shut down, the police did not attempt to break up the demonstrations. Because Erdogan supports Hamas, the Palestinian nationalist and Islamist movement that de facto governs Gaza. There are religious reasons for this that also fit right into his geopolitical strategy.

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Beyond Gaza: Seething Youth In The West Bank Are Radicalizing

For fear of losing legitimacy to Hamas, supporters of the ruling Fatah party have joined the riots that have left at least 19 people dead since Friday.

SILWAD — At the end of the unrest in their village of Silwad this past Saturday, under the watchful eye of a few adults and a spotter, perched on a roof at the edge of the village, dozens of children, barely 10 years old, are trying to throw stones at an Israeli base located 200 meters away. The soldiers are on the road that leads south, through beautiful terraced hills, to Ramallah, the seat of political authority in the occupied West Bank.

This was May 15, the day of remembrance for "Nakba" ("catastrophe") — the forced exodus of 700,000 Palestinians when Israel was created in 1948 — the entrances to Silwad are littered with the remnants of larger clashes. On Friday, Mohammad Hamad, a 30-year-old resident of the village, was killed by soldiers. The two days of rioting have left 19 people dead, according to the health services, across a hundred Palestinian towns and villages. This is a death toll not seen in the West Bank since 2002. But this is the first response in this West Bank that broods over its marginalization, far from the conflict in Jerusalem and far from Gaza where Hamas has been embroiled in an all-out war with Israel since May 11.

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The Beauty And Brutality Of Occupied Hebron

Also known as al-Khalil — the friend — the historic, contested city is steeped in enmity and overshadowed by Israel's commanding military presence.

-Essay-

HEBRON — As an academic and D.C. Beltway analyst on issues about the Arab world, I've been closely following discussions about the accelerating Arab normalization with Israel. And what strikes me as being most absent from those deliberations is talk about what held back such normalization for decades: namely the Israeli military occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Earlier this year, I visited Hebron, a Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank that exemplifies a particular sharpness of the occupation more than anywhere else. In Hebron, at the very core of the ancient city, the military occupation divides the civilian population. There's an awesomeness to Hebron that cannot be compared to any other holy site. But there's a devastating desolation to behold as well.

After Israel moved toward normalization with the UAE and then Bahrain, Washington was awash with widely believed rumors among analysts and politicians that other Middle-Eastern countries would follow suit. Sudan, a country suffering tremendously under deeply debilitating American sanctions, decades of a dictatorship that its people managed to force out last year, and a humanitarian disaster owing to mass floods, was the latest country to signal a process of normalization, although that is still subject to a future Sudanese parliament. To put it bluntly, normalization with Israel is being used as leverage to get Sudan off the sanctions lists, at a time when Sudan desperately needs it to save its population from a crisis.

But it is also clear that the push to normalize Israel's position in the Arab world is far stronger than that to de-normalize the Israeli occupation of Arab territories, which is illegal under international law.

Two causes were prominent in my family upbringing: the South African anti-apartheid struggle, and the Palestinian cause. Both were deeply significant for me through my adolescence and into adulthood. And they both resonated for me on my visit to Hebron, although when I went there I tried hard not to have any expectations.

I've read about Hebron for more than two decades, and the very name has a certain resonance for me. But still, I tried hard not to think too much about it. Instead, I thought about how to get to Hebron — which is a mission in and of itself.

I went straight from the Old City of Jerusalem, which I had also visited, and arranged a taxi with a Palestinian Jerusalemite, who had one of those rare passes — for a Palestinian — that allowed him to drive anywhere in the Holy Land. He wasn't an Israeli citizen — he was from east Jerusalem — but with that particular pass, he was able to go to Haifa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron.

The sublime sanctity of this place stands in stark contrast to the rank injustice of the quite literal apartheid that exists just outside its walls.

As I drove with him from the Old City, I remembered very clearly that he wasn't free in his land. His ability to travel depended on this pass, which was granted and could be withdrawn at any time by an occupying power, the Israeli state.

If the patchwork of different roads and Jewish-Israeli only settlements that we passed on our way to Hebron were a reminder of that occupation, there was something far starker ahead of us. Hebron is one of the most symbolic cities in the Palestinian occupied territories. With around 215,000 inhabitants, the old town of Hebron is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of one particular place — a place that is now completely wrought with subtle beauty and piercing pain.

Hebron is the English name for the city, derived from the Hebrew Khevron. Its inhabitants call it al-Khalil, which means "the friend," as does the Hebrew name. There's a reason for that: The old town of Hebron is where the Patriarch, Abraham, is said to be buried.

Abraham is cherished by Jews, Christians and Muslims, and indeed, in the West, we describe their religions as the Abrahamic faiths, noting their common claim of Abraham as a spiritual progenitor. For Muslims, Abraham is known as the prophet who built the Kaaba in Mecca and established the Hajj rituals that all Muslims are called upon to perform once in their lifetimes.

Abraham's privileged position is so highly regarded, that he is called Friend of God, as per the Quranic verse:

"Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to God, does good, and follows the way of Abraham, the true in faith? For God did take Abraham for a friend."

And thus, the name al-Khalil is the name of the city itself, although that notion of friendship is now deeply troubled. On the one hand, it is there in the old town of Hebron and where Abraham is reported to rest. But on the other, friendship's precise opposite — enmity — is tremendously evident.

I think the first time I heard the name Hebron was because of a murder. In 1994, an American-Israeli religious extremist entered the enclosure of the Tomb of the Patriarchs and proceeded to massacre and injure 29 Palestinian Muslims at prayer. It was one of the most extreme singular examples of the Israeli occupation and the settler movement, and three decades later, it's still very much remembered in Palestine and around the world.

As soon as you enter the room of the tomb, the occupation slaps you in the face.

That was probably part of the emotion that I felt as I proceeded closer to the old town — remembering that awful event. I've never been able to disassociate Hebron from that massacre. And at the same time, Hebron is al-Khalil — the friend. It is where the Sanctuary of Abraham, al-Haram al-Ibrahimi, exists. That sanctuary is where, even before the Arab-Muslim conquest in the mid-7th century, residents believed that the biblical figures of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah were all buried.

And such is it to this day. The Mamluks in the 14th century built a cenotaph for each of those figures in the enclosure; the Ottomans ensured that the tombs were covered in splendor; scores of believers have visited the sanctuary throughout history. The Prophet Abraham, perhaps like no other, resonates so tremendously across religious boundaries. I've long heard the term "Abrahamic faiths' in my work — but in Hebron, it's given a new meaning.

Alas, that meaning — in practice — isn't a gentle or kind one. The sanctuary is in the heart of the old city of Hebron, and it is in the area around the sanctuary where the most brutal and visible evidence of the Israeli occupation is brought to bear. As you get closer and closer to the sanctuary complex, the otherwise bustling city of Hebron becomes quieter and quieter. Shops that would have been busy in earlier years because of their proximity to the sanctuary appear to be scarcely surviving. And then you reach the entry point to the complex, and you're subjected to the security checkpoint of the Israelis.

The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron — Photo: Dan Rosenstein

There's a heavily armed Israeli presence around the sanctuary. It's not there to protect the Palestinian population, of course, who make up some 99% of the population of Hebron. It's to protect the few hundred extremist Israeli settlers that have decided to live in the old city since the Israeli occupation began in 1967, who are renowned for being of the most ideologically strident of the settler movement — and most intolerant of the Palestinians that they live among.

But as you enter the sanctuary, you can, if momentarily, forget about all that. You go through the Israeli security checkpoint of the old city; you then go through the security checkpoint of the actual sanctuary, and then you're left exploring the sanctuary complex. And as you do so, you see the beautiful structure of the mosque and the serenity therein. Until. Until. Until.

It's that "until" that casts a shadow over any experience of visiting al-Khalil. Because as one gets further and further into the mosque and the sanctuary, one realizes that one is approaching the source of what makes Hebron so special: the resting place of the Patriarch, of the Prophet Abraham. It's an experience that should be replete with wonder and awe alone. The Patriarch's resting place should evoke feelings of marvel and contemplation at the deep significance of the site.

But as soon as you enter the room of the tomb, the occupation slaps you in the face. The outer room of the tomb is cut in two — there's a security barrier, separating you from one side. And within the actual inner room, where the tomb is housed, there's another security barrier, where if you peer through the window, you can see Israeli settlers on the other side. The occupation here is raw, intense, ferocious.

At the same time, there's that unmistaken sense of a powerful presence, and the knowledge that for hundreds of years, people have visited that same spot to pay their respects to the Prophet Abraham. As a fellow analyst, and friend of mine who lived in Palestine for many years, put it: "The sublime sanctity of this place stands in stark contrast to the rank injustice of the quite literal apartheid that exists just outside its walls."

When one exits the mosque and tries to go to the other side of the sanctuary, the Israeli military is there — to stop Palestinians from entering a massive part of the old city. It's that part of the old city that the Israeli settler movement is so keen to populate and, as a result, several hundred extremist settlers hold the rest of the old city, and Hebron writ large, hostage. All under the gaze of the occupation.

I was told I could try to enter that area, as a non-Palestinian. I was tempted. But it seemed abysmal for me to even consider it, as it would mean leaving my Palestinian companion behind, a person who had far more right, in my opinion, and international law, than I to do so.

Instead, he took me on a brief tour of the rest of the old city. It was a complete ghost town. The shops of that area used to be busy with commerce, but because it is so difficult to enter with the security restrictions, there is no business to be made. No one wants to put themselves constantly at the mercy of Israeli security arrangements when they can go shopping elsewhere in the city, where the occupation is less directly intrusive. So they don't — and the businesses ended up shuttering their stores, and looking for opportunity elsewhere.

There are still Palestinians who persist in living in their ancestral homes in that area. They have to take difficult and torturous routes to get through just a tiny piece of the city, to reach their homes, owing to all the restrictions the occupation places upon them. In their city.

There's a wondrous sacredness in Hebron that is difficult to imagine witnessing anywhere else. But there is a tragic sadness to witness too.

It's particularly painful walking through that part of Hebron — but it's a clear microcosm of how the occupation functions and operates. From the perspective of the occupying military forces and their political leaders, the needs and requirements of the Palestinians are so minor compared to the desires of a tiny number of extremist settlers — and those desires will be protected by the barrels of guns. Their own, as well as the Israeli army's.

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BBC

The Latest: New Gaza Flare-Up, Biden-Putin Meeting, Unmasking Spain

Welcome to Wednesday, where Israel carries out first airstrikes on Gaza since the ceasefire in May, Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin meet for the first time since Biden's election and Ronaldo changes Coke into water. Chinese daily Economic Observer also advocates for more open discussion about the real reason why China's couples are not having more children.

• Israel air strikes in Gaza after Hamas incendiary balloon attacks: Early Wednesday morning, Israel carried out air strikes in Gaza in response to fire balloons launched by Hamas from the territory. This is the first major flare-up since last month's ceasefire following a brief but deadly war. It is not known whether the latest strikes have caused any injuries or death.

• Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva: U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin have a highly anticipated bilateral meeting in Geneva today. On the agenda: regional conflicts, climate, COVID and cybersecurity. No major breakthroughs are expected but there are hopes that the leaders will find some common ground after trading invectives from afar in recent months.

• Taiwan reports largest incursion by Chinese air force: According to Taiwan's government, 28 Chinese air force aircrafts entered the island's air defense identification zone (ADIZ) yesterday. Over the last few months, multiple missions of the Chinese air force have taken place near the self-ruled island, but this was the largest incursion since the Taiwanese ministry began regularly reporting the activities last year.

• Car bomb explosion at Colombia military base injures 36: In the Colombian border city of Cucuta, two men drove a white Toyota truck into the military base after passing themselves off as officials. According to the Defence Minister Diego Molano, the hypothesis is that the National Liberation Army guerrillas are to blame but the attack is still being investigated.

• Leftist Castillo wins popular vote in Peru's presidential race: With all ballots counted, and a turnout of nearly 75%, leftist candidate Pedro Castillo has just over 50% of the votes. But he cannot be declared the winner until electoral authorities have finished processing legal challenges brought by right-wing contender Keiko Fujimori. It could take weeks before a winner is formally announced.

• China to send astronauts to new space station: On Thursday, three veteran astronauts will become the first Chinese astronauts to land on the initial stages of China's orbiting space station module, Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, which is still under construction. The mission, called Shenzhou-12 or Divine Vessel, is the first of four planned and marks a significant milestone in China's expanding space program.

• Greenpeace parachuting protesters lands on soccer fans: Several spectators were treated for injuries caused by a Greenpeace protester who parachuted into the Munich stadium before France played Germany at the European Championship. The parachutist seemed to lose control and had a brush with the supporters before landing on the field. Greenpeace has apologized for putting people in harm's way.

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BBC

The Latest: Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza, Indian COVID Variant, Ancient Asteroid Dust

Welcome to Tuesday, where deadly warfare erupts in Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Indian COVID variant is "cause for concern," and NASA gets its hands on some seriously old space dust. Le Monde"s Joan Tilouine also explains how the initial excitement surrounding Beijing's so-called "Stadium Diplomacy" in Africa has turned.

• Israel responds to Palestinian rockets with deadly Gaza airstrikes: Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israel, and Israel retaliated with airstrikes in Gaza earlier today, following confrontations at al-Asqa Mosque in Jerusalem on Monday. Palestinian authorities say at least 24 people were killed, including nine children in the most violent outbreak in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2019.

• Deadly Russian school shooting: At least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded after one or several men opened fire in a school in Kazan, eastern Russia.

• Indian variant of COVID of "global concern" amid new surge across Asia: The World Health Organization has warned that the coronavirus variant first found in India was of "global concern". The Indian variant has been found in at least 30 other countries so far. Malaysia imposed a new nationwide lockdown on Monday, and the fourth wave hitting Japan has sparked criticism and calls for tougher restrictions ahead of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

• Myanmar journalists, activists arrested in Thailand: Three reporters and two activists from Myanmar have been arrested in Thailand for illegally entering the country, and could possibly face deportation. Dozens of journalists have been arrested and many news agencies have been banned since the Feb. 1 military coup.

• U.S. fires warning shots at Iranian ships at Strait of Hormuz: The Pentagon confirmed that the U.S Coast Guard fired two warning shots at a fleet of 13 Iranian boats that came too close to American naval vessels in the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz on Monday.

• Golden Globes boycott: Following criticisms about the lack of diversity in the Golden Globes, the NBC television network announced it will not air the event next year, while actor Tom Cruise handed back his three awards.

• NASA craft returning home with 5-billion-year-old asteroid dust: A NASA spacecraft containing a sample of rock and dirt as old as the Solar System will drop from outer space into the Utah desert in two years time, and is likely to provide clues on how the Solar System was formed.

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Sources
Tanya Habjouqa

CINQ Video: Tanya Habjouqa - Occupied Pleasures Photo Series

When it was first published in 2013, Tanya Habjouqa"s groundbreaking series "Occupied Pleasures' forced us to see one of the most photographed corners of the world in an entirely different light. The multi-dimensional portrayal of joy and defiance in the face of trying circumstances in the Occupied Palestinian Territories went on to garner international recognition, including a World Press Photo award. The final available copies of the original 2015 Occupied Pleasures book are currently available on the NOOR website.

More than four million Palestinians live in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, where politics, restriction of movement and violence regularly intrude upon the most mundane of moments. Habjouqa captured how this longstanding occupation creates the strongest of desires for the smallest of pleasures and a sharp sense of humor.

Here, Habjouqa provides commentary on a selection of five images from the series, which OneShot has produced in a Cinq video:

Occupied Pleasures - CINQ - (Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR) | OneShot

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Geopolitics
Hala Marshood

Where Women's Liberation And Palestinian Liberation Meet

A Manifesto for Tali’at, a new movement seeking to put the feminist cause at the center of the battle for Palestinian rights.

-Essay-

JERUSALEM — On Sept. 26, 2019, thousands of Palestinian women took to the streets demanding freedom, safety and a better future. The demonstrators turned out for the sake of every woman facing daily physical violence, and to reject all forms of violence against the most vulnerable segments of society. Women came out everywhere there is a Palestinian presence — in the territory occupied since 1948, the West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, and the diaspora. Their voices crossed colonial geographic borders and dislocations to say that there can be no free nation unless women are free. After years of silence and marginalization, we made the street our frontline, to put our issues at the center of the Palestinian struggle. We can only salute those women who participated in the demonstrations, but we must also remember that our violence-filled reality and the numerous systems of oppression that rule us prevented many women from taking part. To them, we offer our utmost respect.

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Marc Semo

Can Middle East Diplomacy Help UNESCO Preserve Itself?

The UN culture and patrimony organization's new chief, Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister, shares her vision for reviving UNESCO after the U.S. and Israel have announced their withdrawal.

PARIS After years of crisis and lethargy, UNESCO — the United Nations' agency in charge of education, culture and science — is showing small signs of revival. During a World Heritage Committee meeting last month in Manama, Bahrain, the texts regarding the historic preservation of the Old City and Walls of Jerusalem and of Hebron were unanimously ratified. And that included support from both the Israeli and Palestinian representatives.

This vote would have been unthinkable just a few weeks earlier. In July 2017, a first draft of the declaration which mentioned the heritage status of the Old City of Hebron had infuriated Israel. That same year, in October, Israel and the United States had announced their withdrawal from the UN agency — which will be effective at the end of 2018 — considered a symbol of the multilateralism abhorred by both Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Sources

Watch OneShot: Palestinian Boy Floating

OneShot — Young boy in the pool, 2013 (©Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Migrant Lives
Hamza Abu Eltarabesh

Rafah Crossing Voices, When Gaza-Egypt Border Stays Open

RAFAH — It has been one month since the Rafah Border Crossing was opened, marking the longest window in which Gaza residents have been permitted to leave and reenter their besieged territory since 2013.

What was initially purported to be a four-day opening was extended on May 17, when President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that travel across the Egypt-Gaza border would be permitted throughout the month of Ramadan. (On Tuesday, Egypt extended the opening for at least another two months, ANSA Mediterranean news service reports)

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Farah Barqawi*

Testing A Mother-Daughter Relationship At The Gaza Border

-Essay-

CAIRO — I dropped her off at the first of many stops that make up the long journey back to her home, and I went back to mine. We both like "homemaking;" we hoard the smallest of things, collect candles, eat what we grow – both of us are lovers of life, even fighters for it.

What we're not fond of are goodbyes, like this one. Her home, which is as small as mine, is not across the street, or in another neighborhood or even another town a two or three hours' drive away. Her home is over there, beyond that border, where all the injustice of the world is distilled. My mother's home is on the fifth floor of an apartment building on Lababidi Street in Gaza, Palestine.

A few hours earlier, I had been standing in the shower, contemplating the shampoo bottles lined up along the edge of the bathtub. Her suitcases were tightly packed with her old and newly bought belongings. Only her bottles of baby shampoo remained; she wasn't taking these. I liked that – it meant that in the coming days, every time I caught a whiff of shampoo, I would have an excuse to think of my mother.

She had arrived in Cairo one month and seven days earlier, following two full years of absence and a 40-hour journey. Forty hours spent on a bus progressing slowly through the desert and the multiple checkpoints, sleeping on the floor of the Egyptian terminal at the border, before finally crossing the canal and advancing towards the congested faraway city (separated more by time and hardship than by actual distance), where I, her daughter, reside. Two days ago, we had received the always arbitrary news that the crossing was open, and abruptly commenced the rituals of goodbye. And so the decision made by others decreed that International Women's Day would also be the day that my mother and I began to learn how to be apart again.

Palestinians who cross from Gaza into Egypt do not have the luxury of choosing when to make the journey, when to arrive, or when to leave – their plans are always tentative and suspended. In order to travel, they have to first get their names onto one of the long waiting lists, then wait and pray for the moment when the crossing is finally opened. Only then, if they are lucky enough to be on the list approved by Egyptian authorities, have fulfilled all the requirements and paid the often costly fees, does their arduous journey begin – with a prayer that it may be less arduous than anticipated, less harsh than the stories heard from the road, involving fewer hours standing around at checkpoints such Rissa in Arish and without losing any important papers or belongings in the recurring searches and chaos at those checkpoints.

The Palestinian traveler returns again to the state of waiting and praying.

Finally, many long hours later, the Palestinian traveler arrives in Cairo or to a plane that may take them away for work, medical treatment, or a long-deferred visit to loved ones. When they want to return, having fulfilled the purpose of the trip or because of commitments back home, the Palestinian traveler returns again to the state of waiting and praying for the crossing to open. When that finally happens, the unfortunate traveler, and their loved ones on both sides, proceed to the state of praying for a safe arrival in Gaza.

My train of thought was interrupted when she spoke to me from the other side of the shower curtain. I smiled, then answered one of her many, often unnecessary, questions. The details of a mother-daughter relationship are still alive between us, the traces of our shared life of old still occasionally detectable. However, none of that cancels out what we have lost in the years of distance since I left Gaza, particularly during the past two years, when a combination of long periods of border closure, road difficulties, a few missed opportunities and work commitments meant that we hadn't seen each other at all.

In distance, we are two independent women in two separate homes. The dynamics that are part of the history of the relationship recede. Each of us lives in her own world, dives into the details of her work, weaves her relationships, celebrates her successes, analyses her failures, constructs her ideas about the world and feminism and society, and takes care of her heart. In the evening, we check in with each other with a picture or short message.

When we meet, which usually happens on short notice because of the crossing, the spaces of difference are exposed, giving rise to a certain awkwardness as we try to restore, temporarily and for an unspecified period, what we remember about sharing a living space and about the material aspects of being a mother and daughter. In quick clumsy movements, like in a game of musical chairs, we move in circles around the house and around each other, awaiting a signal that will allow one of us to sit down and relax.

If you be generous then, like a lover, come to me

Or deny me, then lament me beneath the jasmine tree

I've been humming this Sabah Fakhry song to myself since getting home, as I recalled the previous few hours. On the morning of her departure, my mother had let me pack her bags, in tacit acknowledgment of the skills I've acquired over years of moving between cities and homes. Then she sat on the sofa, finishing the final pages of a massive Waciny Laredj novel she had bought at the Cairo International Book Fair earlier in the month, while I sat beside her answering some emails. For the first time since she'd got here, I talked to her about my intention to do more writing. We went over the plan of the day to make sure we were not forgetting anything. Then we ordered grilled fish and, as we waited, listened to Sabah Fakhry sing. We laughed at the clip of him dancing in the middle of the song, as we had done since my childhood, and then we started dancing along. We danced together for the first time in a long time. It felt like a controlled celebration of each other: So, our ability to dance together had not been affected by distance. Dancing still brought us together.

My mother was older, and so was I.

The month we shared wasn't easy. Every time we part, the distance between us multiplies, and we age separately. This time was particularly difficult. We hadn't seen each other in two years – my mother was older, and so was I. Take two strong, independent women, one in her 60s and the other in her 30s, put them in one room with hardly any notice and for an unspecified duration, and see how that works out.

At first, we went through a phase of daily arguments. Sometimes I just don't get my mother. What is she saying? What is she doing? Who is that 60-year-old woman in my kitchen? In my bedroom? In front of my mirror? And since when does she like jam so much? Without a doubt, she found me strange too, even if she didn't openly express it. When, for instance, did I develop this hatred for neon lights? And why don't I like jam? I oscillated between feeling annoyed by the sudden lack of personal space and feeling energized by the love and warmth. I was continuously and simultaneously awed, bemused and exasperated by the similarities between us.

Our meeting after a long separation is a process of partial reclamation, inevitably punctuated by some mourning for what was lost. While apart, we are not really aware of the loss – phone calls, photographs and text messages don't reveal the cracks in our bond. We are fooled by virtual communication, but only until a real encounter lays us bare, exposing everything that we have tried, consciously or unconsciously, to hide from one other.

The first few days with my mother usually go by in something akin to the stages of bereavement – an interchange of denial, anger, sudden elation, sadness, and confusion. But with time, and luck, we regain some calm and arrive slowly at acceptance: accepting loss, age and difference, accepting new ways of living, accepting the transparency that comes with closeness and the fragility that accompanies it, and finally, accepting once again the mother-daughter relationship. Our conversations start to flow, cohabitation becomes less stressful, cooking together more enjoyable. Little by little, each begins to redraw her own space and to comprehend the other's. We begin a process of rediscovery.

But our time comes to an end before we reach the point of normality. The Egyptian authorities always seem to announce the opening of the Rafah crossing just one moment before we get used to our new – or reclaimed – togetherness. The stages of mourning, of celebration, of growing familiarity, all come to an end. The past evaporates, concerns about the future disappear; we just have one day left. Two women, friends, mother and daughter, seizing the last few hours to love, dance, enjoy food, music, and conversation, and to pack.

Yesterday, at dawn, my mother crossed the dangerous desert once more to return to her home in Gaza. She will dive again into her daily routine, and the work that she will remain attached to until her last breath, for she is simply incapable of being unproductive. Back at my Cairo home, I too dive back into the details of my work and my everyday life – friendships, traffic, dreams of travel, the rising cost of living. Years ago, when she chose to stay and I chose to leave, we thought that we were a mere road trip away. We thought that Gaza and Cairo were two fairly close points on an unbroken line between us. We didn't know what lay ahead: multiplied distances, political complications, long queues, complex planning and risky roads.

Today is March 8. I'm thinking that the crossing was opened in time for my mother to wake up in her own home on International Women's Day and to participate in the celebrations and activities as she does every year. After an entire month off work, I can imagine her voice — the voice I grew up with – in seminars, meetings, debates and campaigns, soaring to defend women's rights.

As for me, I woke up alone, without her voice. I prepared my favorite breakfast, changed the bed sheets and sat down to write these words, wavering between the weight of silence and aloneness, the freedom of having my personal space back and the long wait ahead until the next meeting, with all the longing, love, loss, confrontation, grief and rediscovery that the wait will bring.

March 8, 2018 – In the year that has passed since this article was first published here in Arabic, Farah and her mother have not managed to meet again.

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Watch: OneShot — Young Surfer Girl

OneShot — Young surfer girl, 2013 (©Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Sources
Shireen al-Akkah

Hard Living In Gaza: Squeezed Between Israel And Internal Discord

Basic health care services are hard to come by.

GAZA CITY — As negotiations continue to prevent the collapse of reconciliation talks between internal rivals Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, the lives of those living under siege in Gaza play out in very different ways. Israel's blockade coupled with the sanctions the Palestinian Authority has imposed to extract political compliance from Hamas have left many Gazans watching politics unfold from below as they are left waiting for medical treatment, stranded with no means to resume studies, looking for ways to renew expired documents and residency permits, or working toward immigration.

A visit to the central Gaza City neighborhood of Rimal begins to paint a picture of this other reality. Financial aid applicants are taking up the better part of the most lively street in the entire strip. The poverty rate in Gaza sits at 65%, and unemployment is up to 47% from 41.7% two years ago, according to figures produced by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics cited in a July 2017 Palestinian Center for Human Rights report.

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Watch: OneShot — A Young Girl On The Beach

OneShot — A young girl on the beach, 2013 (©Tanya Habjouqa/NOOR)

OneShot is a new digital format to tell the story of a single photograph in an immersive one-minute video.

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Sources

With Attacks In Sinai, Gaza Border Shuts Even Tighter

There is one land crossing out of Gaza, Rafah on Egypt's border, and it is usually shut, confounding the life and travel plans of thousands of Palestinians.

RAFAH Here in southern Gaza, the Rafah crossing is the only exit point for Palestinians from the narrow strip of land sandwiched between Israel and Egypt. The possibility of actually passing through into Egypt, in order to travel to any foreign destination, has become an almost mythical prospect. More than 25,000 Palestinians registered and waiting to leave can testify to this reality.

Alaf al-Saafini is one of them. Several times since graduating in medicine in 2015 from Gaza's Islamic University, this sharply-dressed young woman thought her lucky day had arrived. First there was a surprise grant to pursue her studies at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, which she had to forego since she could not leave Gaza. Then, last spring, she was offered work and a visa in Dubai. She packed her bags, paid the $1,700 to certify her degree and registered on the long list of people trying to cross the Rafah terminal into Egypt. Again, the veritable siege of Gaza thwarted her plans.

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